Pursuing a dream finish
TCU's All-American seniors aim to cap historic run with title
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Texas Christian's all-female team is attempting to capture its third NCAA Rifle Championship in four years this weekend at host Ohio State, and, the shooting isn’t easy.
None of the participating Horned Frogs expected it to be.
But, they have a tremendous wealth of experience and accomplishment in reserve, not to mention a landmark senior class that hopes to go out with a bang.
“They’ve been there, done that and competed at that level,” TCU head coach Karen Monez said. “And, are very capable of competing at that level.”
Regardless of the outcome of the two-day NCAA championship (competition ends Saturday with the air rifle session), seniors Sarah Scherer, Sarah Beard and Caitlin Morrissey have helped rewrite TCU’s record books and carve a niche for their soon-to-be alma mater in collegiate shooting circles.
“We all came in together and we knew we’d have a good team,” Morrissey said. “I don’t think we realized it at the time. It’s more, ‘hey, we can achieve this — do this.’”
All three are All-Americans. One, Scherer, is particularly decorated. She finished seventh in last year’s summer Olympic competition in London, set two NCAA records this season and arrived at OSU as the defending NCAA smallbore rifle champion. She finished third in Friday’s 2013 smallbore national title competition behind newly crowned individual champion Petra Zublasing of West Virginia and Henri Junghanel of the Kentucky, respectively.
However, neither Scherer nor Beard will place their rifles in mothballs following this weekend’s championship. Per Monez, both have international and Olympic competition goals once they and Morrissey complete their collegiate careers.
Earning a spot on the 2016 United States Summer Olympic team “is definitely in my sights — pun intended,” Scherer said. “But other than that, I have a lot of other things I want to do with my life.”
“They have just redefined what our team is about,” Monez said. “They have such a high bar that we’ve never seen within our team. They’re just world-class shooters. Sarah Scherer is an Olympian and she has competed well at that level. Sarah Beard competed at the world championship and their goal down the road four years is Rio [De Janeiro, Brazil, site of the 2016 summer Olympics].”
Their goal this weekend is another NCAA championship. Third-ranked TCU led the team standings following Friday’s smallbore competition with an aggregate score of 2,317. Fourth-ranked Alaska-Fairbanks and top-ranked West Virginia tied for second with aggregate scores of 2,316.
With NCAA titles in 2010 and 2012, plus a 10-0 regular-season match record this year, the confidence to repeat is there. But, instead of focusing on the pressure of winning a third title in four years, Scherer says the experience of battling for, and winning, NCAA championships is what’s most useful.
“It’s having the performance, too,” Scherer said. “You use your experience. Then to us, we can go in and hit it really hard. It’s more of a tool you use mentally.”
This season marks TCU’s seventh consecutive NCAA title bid. Aside from their national championships, the Horned Frogs also scored fifth-place finishes in 2007 and 2009, and third-place finishes in 2008 and 2011.
“We’ve made a name here for ourselves these last few years,” Monez said.
|TEAM STANDINGS AFTER SMALLBORE|
Her student-athletes say TCU’s ascent coincides with their coach’s presence. Long a recognized competitive shooter in national and international circles, Monez took the TCU helm in June 2004 and has produced nine All-Americans, plus the school-history-making national championships.
“Coach Karen got to TCU and turned the program around again, and all the administrators at TCU say ‘you guys are the ones who have made it what it is',’’ Morrissey said. “We’re the only team at TCU that has two national championships. That’s something.”
“It’s pretty cool,” Scherer said. “We do hear from some administrators and have good support from TCU. For coach Karen, she’s worked so hard to make it what it is — it’s really cool to see the success for her.” Monez eschews all that, focusing on the competitors she coaches.
“It’s not necessarily winning,” Monez said. “That’s special, but the fun is in doing well, performing well. If you can walk off the [firing] line and say 'I did my best today', and you can walk off that line with a nice score on that monitor, that’s very rewarding.”
Junior Catherine Green and freshman Megan Lee, both part of TCU’s five-shooter, national-championship squad at OSU, will pick up the three seniors’ banner next season. Another promising freshman, Hannah Black, earned an NCAA bid to compete for individual championships this weekend.
“I think going into the senior year she’s going to step in that role of being the senior leader,” Monez said of Green. “She’ll be out from under the shadows of the three seniors and will do well.”
And bidding goodbye to those shadows will mark what Monez hopes is the newest competitive chapter for TCU’s team.
“We’ll be a contender,” Monez said. “Not every year. If not every year, we’ll be in the hunt.”